For Shared Challenges and Shared Situations, We Need Networked, Proximity-Oriented Approaches

Do you think that many of our most critical challenges these days are shared challenges? I do. I’m talking about challenges shared by groups of people, from small groups to regions to humanity itself. I think our dominant mental frameworks are not as robust or as effective as we need them to be for shared challenges. And, our dominant mental frameworks don’t leverage our current technologies well enough. I think there are better approaches for our critical shared challenges, and using them could boost not just our survival prospects, but our health, happiness and sustainability too. In addition, these approaches can be used for more everyday shared situations, including shared situations in businesses, communities, organizations, schools, governments, churches, homes and elsewhere. I’m looking for adventurous early adopters to try out these approaches. But let’s think about tools for a minute.

Using the right tool for the job, or a better tool, usually helps. There are many kinds of tools, including physical tools, software tools and also conceptual tools. Conceptual tools may be some of our most important tools. Using conceptual tools to change how we conceptualize or conceive of problems and situations can make big differences in how we deal with them. Not only can they make possible different approaches, but different conceptual tools can generate very different results. Also, an interesting thing about conceptual tools is that often, the more general they are, the better. When you have general concepts that apply to a broad range of situations, you have powerful tools that can be used more often.

I’ve developed some new conceptual tools for shared challenges and shared situations. These leverage the concept of proximity, including the idea that proximity also means nearness in relationship. Proximity thinking is a very general proximity-oriented framework that as a whole is a conceptual tool. And, the ProxThink framework becomes a set of multiple conceptual tools when you get to know it. I developed the framework over many years, integrating my diverse background in the arts, sciences, design and business. It’s a framework for creativity, innovation, problem-solving, sustainability and living, and a significant part of it is for people who share a proximity, challenge or situation. A situation is whatever a person or a group is dealing with or considering. A challenge is a type of situation.

From a proximity thinking point of view, some of the conceptual tools and approaches we use for shared challenges and shared situations could be better. I can’t go into everything here, but for now remember that we can consider situations, in a very general way, with just three terms: element, relationship and proximity. And, that the proximity consists of elements related or potentially related to a situation, in physical, mental and other ways. With these terms in mind, we can begin to see that many of our approaches for dealing with challenges tend to be more element-oriented and/or relationship-oriented, in contrast to being proximity-oriented. For example, element-oriented and/or relationship-oriented approaches like markets, politics and hierarchies can work well in some situations, but they are often also used less effectively in situations which are more proximity-oriented. Now consider more proximity-oriented shared challenges like climate change, sustainability, shared projects, shared spaces, shared resources and shared events. In these kinds of challenges, it helps if the group with the shared situation can relate more directly to the proximity of the situation. Networked technologies, when combined with some proximity-oriented approaches I’ve developed, help groups relate more directly to proximities. How? By deploying the ProxThink growth model processes of RelatePoints, ProxMonitors, Vadi Agreements and ProxRewards (proxri) on a collaborative, networked, mobile platform. Not only does this help a group better deal with a shared situation, but the proximity of their shared situation can become a kind of living thing.

Not relating well to proximities may explain the persistence of some of our challenges and some of the dysfunctional situations in our lives. Using proximity-oriented approaches for some of our shared challenges and shared situations could make a difference. And at the same time, using them could be more healthy, fun and enjoyable. I think it can also create more sustainable proximities and what I call sustainable variety. However, we need to be somewhat careful in transitioning to proximity-oriented approaches, since our “muscles” for relating to proximities are weak. Also, just as there are limits to element-oriented and relationship-oriented approaches, there are limits to proximity-oriented approaches. So element-oriented and relationship-oriented approaches will still be valuable. Life then becomes more a matter of choosing, combining, and even overlapping the most appropriate approaches. In other words, using the right tools for the right jobs.

A longer introduction to these proximity-oriented approaches, including links to the collaborative, mobile Shared Situation Guide that you can use now, is a piece I wrote called Some Situations Call for Proximity-Oriented Approaches Like the Shared Situation Guide, Leading to More Sustainability and VarietyKeep in mind that the Shared Situation Guide is a preliminary implementation of proximity-oriented approaches, and more will need to be done to integrate the processes it uses into our systems and lives.

If you’re interested, you might try one or more of these non-sequential options: Read the piece mentioned above. Start using the Shared Situation Guide immediately on your mobile with your associates, friends, family or neighbors (no cost, offered via proxri). Schedule an online or in-person guide workshop. Dive into the ProxThink framework at proxthink.com. To explore and use the Shared Situation Guide, to contact me, or to collaborate with others using the guide, visit: sharedsituations.wordpress.com.

Creating the Life We Want, with a Tip from Skiing

Ski i Trysil

Ski i Trysil” by Ola Matsson for Trysil is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I think it’s probably true that we, as individuals and groups, can create the life we want, to a large extent. But I also think it’s a bit like skiing. If you do the right things at the right moments, the ski and the mountain do a lot of the rest of the work. In life, the skis are things like the systems, tools, products and services that we create and we use. When I say “systems,” it includes not just things like infrastructure but things like formal and informal social networks, conceptual frameworks, and processes we use to do things large and small. This means such systems might include the proximity thinking framework, the sustainable proximities approach, the shared situation guide and the shared situations website. I’ve worked very hard to make these ProxThink-related systems be like a good pair of skis. When used with reality (the mountain), they can do a lot of the work for us, and can help make life better and more enjoyable.

As touched on, an important point about the above is related to the word “we,” which can mean ourselves individually, but also larger groups of people, and even all of humanity. So we need to think carefully about the systems, tools, products and services that we create and we use. But I think we especially need to think carefully about the systems, as systems can condition the range of options we have, and our quality of life in general. I’ve thought very carefully in creating the ProxThink-related systems mentioned above, and even about the transitions to using them more often.

 

Shared Situation? Try This!

You probably have some shared situations with friends, family, coworkers, neighbors or others. This video shows you how to access and start using the Shared Situation Guide on your desktop or mobile. Your shared situation can be whatever your group is dealing with or considering. A shared situation might be a problem, challenge, opportunity, place, set of circumstances, something you’re managing or working on together, and so on. With smartphones, we have new possibilities. For more, see http://ss.proxthink.com.

Good Reasons to Watch the Let’s ProxThink Demo Video

The new Let’s ProxThink Demo video (below) not only gives you an idea of what Let’s ProxThink sessions might be like, but there are other good reasons to watch it. Here’s a short list. Below that is the same list with more details:

  1. Gain New Approaches for Personal, Local and Even Global Situations
  2. Understand Proximity Thinking More Quickly
  3. Have Your Own Let’s ProxThink Sessions
  4. Create Sustainable Proximities with People You Know
  5. Consider a Let’s ProxThink Session with Us
  6. Make Sessions with Us Shorter, More Valuable and More Effective
  7. Get Up to Speed on the ProxThink Website More Quickly
  8. Help Others and Yourself by Commenting on the Video
  9. Become a Beta Tester of Let’s ProxThink Sessions
  10. Be One of the First to Learn and Use Proximity Thinking

Here’s more about each point on the list above:

  1. Gain New Approaches for Personal, Local and Even Global Situations: This video will give you some conceptual tools and technology tools to think differently about and work on personal, local and even global situations, problems and challenges. It could change the way you think and collaborate.
  2. Understand Proximity Thinking More Quickly: This is the most concise and most accessible introduction to proximity thinking that I’ve created so far. Save yourself some time, even if you don’t attend a session. The insights of 30+ years are compressed into 42 minutes. It would take you far longer to read through the key parts of the website.
  3. Have Your Own Let’s ProxThink Sessions: Watch this and you’ll know enough to begin having your own Let’s ProxThink sessions with people you know or work with!
  4. Create Sustainable Proximities with People You Know: Learn new ways for a group of people who share a proximity to coordinate and collaborate. The video shows you how to use some apps and your smartphone, along with the ProxThink growth model, to create sustainable proximities, which also boosts sustainable variety.
  5. Consider a Let’s ProxThink Session with Us: You’ll get an idea of what Let’s ProxThink sessions with us might be like, so you can decide about joining an open session, scheduling one for yourself or your group, or being notified of upcoming public sessions via Hangouts On Air.
  6. Make Sessions with Us Shorter, More Valuable and More Effective: If you watch this before Let’s ProxThink sessions with us, you will get more out of them, and we may even be able to skip some parts of the session and get right into discussing your situations.
  7. Get Up to Speed on the ProxThink Website More Quickly: The video gives a brief tour of the ProxThink website. Feel more comfortable on the site more quickly.
  8. Help Others and Yourself by Commenting on the Video: Comment on the video or content, either here on this blog or by contacting us. You can help other people with your comments and insights, you’ll learn more from the video in the process of commenting, and you’ll help make ProxThink better and future Let’s ProxThink sessions better. For this, you could also possibly get proxri as part of our Collaboration Deal.
  9. Become a Beta Tester of Let’s ProxThink Sessions: Use this video to consider becoming a beta tester for Let’s ProxThink sessions. You’ll be under no obligation to proxri anything for the session, and you can provide as little or as much feedback about the session as you like. You could also possibly get proxri as part of our Collaboration Deal. For more information and to schedule a session, please contact us.
  10. Be One of the First to Learn and Use Proximity Thinking: You’ll be one of the first people to learn and use proximity thinking, possibly conveying advantages that can shape and change your life and your proximities.


Viewing Notes:
• It’s best to watch this in full screen mode, to see the smallest text.
• Also, you can jump to different sections with the links just below the video.

STARTING AT DIFFERENT SECTIONS: The full version, played from the beginning, is above. You can start at different sections below. (You can also start at different sections on YouTube, from the About description of the video. Click the YouTube logo in the lower right of video above to watch on YouTube, then expand the About description of the video using Show More.)

START AT: Welcome & Overview, Collaboration Deal
Includes: Welcome and Overview, Similar to Non-Public Sessions, Collaboration Deal and Terms of Use.

START AT: Before We Start … Context, Creativity and Capturing
Includes: ProxThink in Context, Capturing Ideas on Your Smartphone and Computer.

START AT: Beginning of Presentation
Includes: What is ProxThink, Why Proximity, Main Parts of Framework.

START ATBasics – Four Terms, with Examples
Includes: Four Terms, Situation, Examples of Situations, Element, Relationship, Proximity, Examples, Proximities Overlap, Our Biggest Challenges, Car Broke Down Example.

START ATBasics – Foundation, Terms & Tools, with Examples
Includes: The Basics Overview, Foundation, Core Idea, Car Broke Down Example with Core Idea.

START ATProxPatterns Intro & Combo ProxPatterns, with Examples
Includes: Introduction, 16 ProxPatterns (PPs), Combo PPs, Honor Integrity PP, Examples, Car Broke Down Example with Honor Integrity, Relate a Variety PP, Examples, Car Broke Down Example with Relate a Variety.

START ATLimits ProxPatterns, with Examples
Includes: Limits PPs, Value of Some PP, Examples, Car Broke Down Example with Value of Some.

START ATPure ProxPatterns, with Examples
Includes: Pure PPs, Introduce Related PP, Examples, Car Broke Down Example with Introduce Related, ProxPatterns are a Team.

START ATGrowth Model Intro & RelatePoints, with Examples
Includes: Growth Model Introduction, Four Processes, RelatePoints, Shared Kitchen Example with RelatePoints. 

START ATProxMonitors & Vadi Agreements, with Examples
Includes: ProxMonitors, Vadi Agreements, Shared Kitchen Example with ProxMonitors and Vadi Agreements. 

START ATProxri (ProxRewards), with Examples
Includes: Proxri, How Do You Proxri?, Shared Kitchen Example with Proxri. 

START ATTechnology Tools to Boost the Growth Model, with Examples
Includes: Tools to Boost Growth Model with Quip App Examples.

START ATQuick Review
Includes: Reviewing the Framework, Why Proximity, Proximities Overlap, Our Biggest Challenges, Q&A. 

START ATBefore We Go – Proxri, Connecting, Start Your Own
Includes: Introduction, Proxri for This Session, Connecting with Us, Watching This Later, Future Sessions, Consider Teaching Someone, Create Sustainable Variety, Thanks + Subscribe + Services.

What next? Please go to lets.proxthink.com to join an open session, or schedule one for yourself or your group. You can also follow us to be notified of future public sessions via Hangouts On Air.

“Relate to the Proximity of a Situation” is a shorthand abstraction (SHA) that may improve your cognitive toolkit.

In 2011, edge.org asked: What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit? Then 164 different contributors answered it. They were basically asking the contributors for what are known as shorthand abstractions. Here’s how they explained it:

James Flynn has defined shorthand abstractions (or SHA’s) as concepts drawn from science that have become part of the language and make people smarter by providing widely applicable templates (market, placebo, random sample, naturalistic fallacy, are a few of his examples). His idea is that the abstraction is available as a single cognitive chunk which can be used as an element in thinking and debate.

Recently I attended a meetup.com philosophy meetup, where we discussed a slight tweak to this question: What one, scientific or philosophical concept would improve everyone’s cognitive toolkit and worldview? This got me thinking and resulted in the following short piece related to the proximity thinking framework. I’d like to introduce you to this shorthand abstraction: Relate to the proximity of a situation. Here’s the essay …

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Relate to the Proximity of a Situation

You can also relate to the proximity of a situation, as opposed to just relating to elements within it like people, things, ideas, feelings, etc. A situation is whatever you are dealing with or considering. But what is the proximity?

Informally, good examples of larger scale proximities are contexts, environments, regions, communities, and neighborhoods. A lot of our toughest problems and challenges these days have to do with these kinds of proximities, so I hope that motivates you to read on.

Good examples of smaller scale proximities are a multi-person shared office; the people, ideas and things related to a project; and the location, people and feeling of a party or conversation.

But how to define the proximity in a useful way? One of the dictionary definitions of proximity includes nearness in relationship. Which leads to the question, relationship to what? And also, what are being related? So in the proximity thinking framework, I’ve had to be more specific. More formally, the proximity consists of elements related or potentially related to a situation, in physical, mental and other ways. What are elements? An element is something you’re relating to other things, such as a person, place, object, idea, feeling, time, group, relationship, situation, proximity, etc. (Yes, a proximity can be an element in a different proximity.)

So while we often relate to proximities more indirectly by relating to elements within them, you can also often relate to a proximity more consciously and directly. Although you may do this sometimes, you may not be used to thinking this way, because our current systems of organization and thought often tend to focus on elements rather than proximities. But it’s possible to change. And here’s more motivation to read on: our networked world is sometimes making it harder to separate elements from what they’re connected to, but also making it easier to relate to proximities.

Of course it’s been possible since the dawn of human coordination to do things which relate to a proximity, and people have done so. The key idea is that you do things with the proximity in mind, that have a chance of keeping the proximity alive, vital, interesting, invigorating and growing. These can be things you do on your own, as well as things you do in some coordinated way with other people, which benefit, for example, the context, environment, region, community, neighborhood, office, project, party or conversation. “Do them on your own” kinds of things might range from doing something that boosts the vibe of the party, to something that affects the environment, to something that helps the atmosphere at the office, to something that improves the neighborhood, to a change that affects the direction and progress of a project. Things you do with other people in some coordinated way might include meeting, planning, coordinating, celebrating, innovating, collaborating, creating shared systems, etc.

Now, think about the times we live in. We have many physical tools, such as computers, mobile phones, sensors and networks, to help more of us relate to proximities, and relate more directly to proximities. These can affect both things people do on their own to relate to a proximity, and things people do in coordinated ways.

And how do we best use these new tools? I think the biggest opportunity lies in certain conceptual tools that can help us leverage those physical tools even better. There are two conceptual tools I’d like to point out.

One of those conceptual tools for relating to proximities is the idea of a proximity itself. You’ll notice this one concept was just applied to contexts, environments, regions, communities, neighborhoods, offices, projects, parties and conversations. Any situation you are considering has an associated proximity, so the concept of proximity can be used at any scale. But what about when a number of people share a proximity? That’s where the other conceptual tool comes into play.

The other conceptual tool for relating to proximities is a model for coordinating and collaborating that I call the ProxThink Growth Model. It has four processes that are not too difficult to explain, and they make the proximity easier to relate to, especially when a number of people share a proximity. The four processes are RelatePoints, ProxMonitors, Vadi Agreements and ProxRewards (or the shorter version of ProxReward, which is proxri). The four processes and the growth model are in turn part of the proximity thinking framework. The framework is built on the concept that being is about relating, and the notion that you can think in a very general way with just four terms, which are: situation, element, relationship and proximity. The framework also has ProxPatterns for relating to proximities with more creativity and innovation. But back to the processes of the growth model. I’ll define the four processes and then provide examples.

RelatePoints are points or places for coordinating relationships in the proximity.

A Proximity Monitor, or ProxMonitor, increases awareness of the proximity, and provides information about the proximity.

The term Vadi (pronounced vah’dee) is short for valuable differences. A Vadi Agreement acknowledges that differences are a part of relationships and some differences have value. Vadi Agreements provide relationships and agreements which can help valuable differences persist, adapt and change as needed.

Proxri (pronounced prox’ree) is short for one or more ProxRewards, which are rewards made with the proximity in mind. Proxri may include money, things, services, relationships, actions, and so on, as well as a combination of these. More formally, a ProxReward, or proxri, is a reward which relates elements in the proximity.

Of course you can use the ProxThink Growth Model informally without high technology. Here are examples: In a shared office, a RelatePoint could be the water cooler or a bulletin board in the break room. The ProxMonitor process could occur in the notes on the bulletin board or the discussion around the water cooler. The Vadi Agreement might be agreements or understandings about the use of the shared refrigerator in the break room, or that the company survives and thrives thanks to certain valuable differences between people, materials and processes. And proxri can include a wide variety of actions, from cleaning out the refrigerator once in a while, to financial dealings, to saying things to people in the office which help keep the atmosphere professional but also lively, interesting, and growing.

But now consider the technological possibilities. I think we could be doing a better job of using networks and technologies to relate to proximities, by using the ProxThink Growth Model with technology in networked applications. I think RelatePoints could be accessed via computers and mobiles, that have ProxMonitors showing both human- and sensor-generated monitoring of proximities, allowing shared Vadi Agreements on the network to be viewed, discussed and updated, and in terms of Proxri, there could be suggestions for proxri as well as places to share and discuss proxri that were made or received. You’ll notice the four processes, when combined with technologies, have the effect of transforming the proximity of a situation, or even multiple situations, into more of a tangible element you can relate to. I think such networked applications which use the growth model can be deployed at various scales, from homes and team projects to regions and global proximities.

In addition to the benefits of keeping a proximity alive, vital, interesting, invigorating and growing, I think relating to the proximity of a situation has other benefits. I think relating to proximities is a way to make proximities more sustainable, and also helps us with the challenge of climate change. (I’ve used the ProxThink Growth Model in what I’m calling a sustainable proximities approach.) I think relating to proximities can help people within them be healthier and happier. And, since proximities often overlap, relating to a proximity often helps other proximities.

I think one other interesting thing happens when the focus shifts to relating to proximities. It’s about variety. I think variety and relating to proximities help each other, grow each other, and reinforce each other, at many levels. But perhaps the most interesting level is that of individual people. When individuals relate to proximities, they often need and develop a variety of skills, viewpoints, and efforts, which is invigorating, challenging and rewarding and partly why they may become healthier and happier. The proximity also becomes a kind of living thing, and generates variety for the individuals within it. So relating to the proximity is partly it’s own reward, and becomes self-reinforcing. This is also related to my project VarietyPeople.org.

I hope this essay has helped convince you that you can also relate to the proximity of a situation. You may have picked up a few other shorthand abstractions as well! These include: proximitiesRelatePointsProxMonitorsVadi Agreements and ProxRewards (or the shorter version of ProxReward, which is proxri). For more about the growth model, please see this link: Brief Intro to the ProxThink Growth Model. I’m also trying to spread this approach via a project and site called Proxri.org. For more about the proximity thinking framework, please see proxthink.com or the new mobile site proxthink.wordpress.com.

Here are some ways you might want to explore the ProxThink Growth Model. I’m working to deploy the model in some basic ways with two arts projectsArtsdown and Artsflex. If you would like to somehow deploy this model in your business or organization, in any way, low-tech or high-tech, please get in touch. If you would like to adopt or adapt the growth model for your proximity or situation, here’s more about that. If you would like to explore tools that can be used or adapted to implement the growth model for a proximity that people share, please see this page. If you would like to find other individuals, websites, groups of people, proximities or situations using proxri and the growth model, please see this page.

I’d like to collaborate with developers to create networked applications that use the ProxThink Growth Model with technology in more extensive ways, to boost the sustainability and variety of proximities. If you are a developer interested in collaborating, or know of developers who might be, please get in touch with me and/or them. We could start small, and perhaps the process of building it and using it could be so much fun that it grows. I think people should get involved at first mainly for the challenge and the variety, and only work on it part-time. Also, we should have a place where people involved could post their own ProxMonitors and proxri wishes, so others could proxri them for their efforts in building this.

I’m also seeking a group of individuals who might like to collaborate with me, even part-time, on my projects as a collection (ProxThink, sustainable proximities, Proxri.orgVarietyPeople.org, Artsdown and Artsflex), as I think there is potential to grow them faster and better with a team of people and with each project helping the other projects.

Finally, I’m available for services such as webinars, flexible collaboration, idea sessions, speaking and consulting, each of which uses and demonstrates the proximity thinking framework, so please contact me for more information or scheduling.